Morrisons has teamed up with Cambridge-based agritech business Better Origin to install insect ‘mini farms’ at 10 of its free-range egg farms.
The move is designed to reduce the soya content in its hen feed and comes as the retailer prepares to debut a range of own-label carbon-neutral eggs in 2022 – the first to be launched by a UK supermarket.
Ten containers will be installed at the farms by Better Origin, which launched what it called the world’s first AI-powered insect mini farm, which converts local waste into high-quality animal feed, last summer.
Each insect farm operated by the business on the Morrisons project will be filled with millions of insects and will receive a weekly delivery of three tonnes of waste from the retailer’s fruit & veg site in Yorkshire.
The insects, which can grow to 5,000 times their initial body mass in fewer than 14 days, will feast on the scraps and help to create a circular waste feeding scheme that will collectively feed 320,000 free-range hens, Morrisons said.
The nutrient-rich feed would also be supplemented with British beans, peas and sunflower seeds, the retailer added.
Soya currently accounts for 10%-20% of hens’ normal diets, while up to 70% of the emissions from the UK’s supply chain is attributed to feed, of which soya is a major contributor, the supermarket added.
It predicted its activity could save 56 hectares of South American land from deforestation every year, reduce CO2 emissions by 5,737 tonnes and save 40 billion litres of water annually.
The retailer expected the launch of its first carbon-neutral eggs next year would be followed by carbon-neutral options for fruit, vegetables and meat in the coming years as part of Morrisons’ commitment to be supplied only by net-zero British farms by 2030.
“Reducing soya from livestock feed is one of the key challenges for farms needing to lower their carbon footprint and we wanted to help find a solution,” said Sophie Throup, head of agriculture at Morrisons.
“An insect diet could suit our hens better – they seem to enjoy it – and the nutritional and added health benefits are notable. We’re also finding a good home for our fruit & veg waste. We think that this could be part of the future of egg farming.”
Fotis Fotiadis, CEO and founder of Better Origin, added: “We are delighted to be working with Morrisons to decarbonise their food supply chain and reduce soya reliance.
“Our vision is for the initial rollout to scale across all Morrisons egg farms, which would reduce 40,180 tonnes of CO2e per year. Achieving net zero is a massive challenge that needs collaboration and determination, and we hope this is the year that more food providers and producers take meaningful action.”